Panaji, Jan 27
In an age of bullet-spitting US drones, good old kites with traditional insignia still fly high.
Ask American Ronald Bohart, one of the several international kite enthusiasts who participated in the International Kite Festival held over the Republic Day weekend.
"Once you take to kite flying, you're never gonna turn back," Bohart, from Portland, Oregon, said as he used his entire body weight to leverage his gigantic 15-metre-long kite intricately stitched together to form a Red Indian riding a horse and titled 'Crow'.
"The wind is perfect and it's such a pity that we have only one day here," Bohart told IANS.
Bohart was part of a delegation of 41 other international kite fliers from Europe, Central Asia and East Asia, as also Australia-New Zealand, battling it out for space among Indian fliers at the International Kite Festival.
For the first time in years, the state government hosted back-to-back kite festivals, largely due to a positive response, signalling that like in Gujarat, kite festivals are perhaps here to stay.
And, the number and quality of kites flown during the festival were unparalleled, at least by Goan standards.
Bohart's gigantic kites often take four months to make.
"I dye the material myself and then stitch the pieces of cloth together to make a portrait or a design," he said. Sure enough, his kites look like paintings flying 30 metres into the air, using the sky as a vast gallery.
"There's about seven kilometres of thread gone into this one," he said, pointing to the Red Indian in the sky. He has two other kites - one depicting a tiger and one a landscape.
The kite fliers say they couldn't have asked for more.
"The wind here is terrific," Peter Flynn, who had flown in from New Zealand just to fly his kites on the Goan sands, told IANS.
Flynn specialises in kites that inflate once in the wind and he brought in kites of various hues and shapes including whales, penguins, sharks, crocodiles and crabs - all bobbing in the wind like giant balloons.
"We hope that such festivals promote Goa and increase its value as a tourism destination," Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar said, wishing the festival well.
Wind is the biggest limiting factor for kite fliers and as a seaside location, wind is one factor which is generally available in abundance in Goa.
Most of the kite fliers present in Goa have previously taken part in the Ahmedabad kite festivals, but rated Goa much higher.
"The kites will not fly with such grace and ferocity in Ahmedabad. The wind keeps changing direction and we have to keep scurrying about to ensure that our kites are not getting in the way of others. We have to keep changing the locations and are kept sweating all day. In Goa, you can just set up your kite, anchor it and sip beer in the shade," Bohart added.
(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at [email protected])
Panaji, Jan 27